TORONTO — After a near-perfect November, the Boston Bruins were in no mood to celebrate.
Boston polished off the franchise’s first month without a regulation loss in more than four decades with a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, but the defending Stanley Cup champions took it in stride and acted as though they had been there before.
That is a big reason why they should be considered among the favorites to win it all again.
“I think it was a pretty good month,” forward David Krejci said. “We were playing some great hockey and we were having so much fun off the ice. It was a pretty good experience.
“But the season’s long, we’ve got about 60 games left. It’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to forget what happened and get ready for the future.”
The Bruins were last in the Eastern Conference when October ended and then went 12-0-1 in November to jump up to second. No NHL team went a calendar month without a regulation loss since San Jose did it in March 2008.
Boston hadn’t pulled it off since January 1969.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “It might be one of those things that only happens … well, for a lot of guys it won’t even happen once in their career, right? For anybody who has played for the Bruins their whole career, obviously no one’s done that since 1969.
“Unfortunately, the way the world works and the way this league works, November’s gone. It’s behind us. This is December.”
Milan Lucic scored two goals Wednesday and Krejci added a goal and two assists. Zdeno Chara, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand also scored for Boston (15-7-1), which hasn’t lost in regulation since Oct. 29 at Montreal. Thomas made 34 saves and earned his ninth consecutive win.
Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Matt Frattin scored for Toronto (14-9-2).
The Maple Leafs pushed the Bruins to their limit in the first of a home-and-home series between teams near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They will face off again in Boston on Saturday night.
“That’s a good hockey team,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “They seem to have our number. I was actually pleased with the way we played. Unfortunately, they got five or six power plays and we really only had one and a half. I thought we worked hard enough to draw a few more penalties but we didn’t.
“If we keep playing like that, we’ll eventually beat these guys.”
The Bruins have won all three meetings with the Maple Leafs by a combined score of 19-5.
“They’re a legit good team,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Leafs. “I think the reason we’ve been successful is we’ve never lost respect for them and we come prepared to play them.”
This game lived up to the hype as the quick skating teams took turns mounting rushes during the first period, in which the Bruins held a slight edge in possession and shots, 17-16.
But the game was tied 1-1, with each team scoring on a power play.
Thomas has played a major role in the turnaround. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is on a career-best winning streak.
His biggest stop came late in the first period when he denied NHL scoring leader Phil Kessel on a breakaway.
“Well, I saw Phil coming down on the breakaway and I quickly thought, ‘Man, I know he wants to score really bad,'” Thomas said. “I didn’t really think about what he was going to do. I just decided to play him honestly.”
The Bruins pulled away for good with less than five minutes left in the second period. Chara jumped into the rush and beat Jonas Gustavsson with a heavy wrist shot to make it 3-2. Toronto never closed the gap.
Boston sealed the win with a couple of third-period goals, including one into an empty net by Marchand.
“I don’t think the score was too respectful for how the game was,” Frattin said. “It was a nice, close, intense game — fast and hard-hitting. It was a good game. Kind of felt like a playoff game.”
The most important thing for the Bruins is they have managed to rediscover the form that carried them through last season’s playoffs. Their 3-7 start is now long forgotten.
“I think we felt we were a better team than what we showed in October,” Julien said. “Where we were certainly didn’t make us happy. So we just kind of picked up our game and decided to play the way we can.
“It made a big difference.”
NOTES: The Maple Leafs were 7-6-1 in November. … Cody Franson, Colton Orr and Philippe Dupuis sat out for Toronto. … The Bruins scratched Jordan Caron and Steve Kampfer. … Toronto goalie James Reimer, sidelined since Oct. 22 with concussion-like symptoms, is expected to be the backup Saturday in Boston.